Friday, 19 June 2009

Menopause The Musical: Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Menopause: The Musical
Writer: Jeanie Linders
Director: Andrew Lynford
Choreographer:Helen Jeckells
Musical Director:Philip Shute
Reviewer:Ian Cain

I’m beginning to feel like something of an expert on the female menopause. Having reviewed ‘The Vagina Monologues’, ‘Hot Flush!’ and ‘Women On The Verge Of HRT’ already this year, and now adding ‘Menopause: The Musical’ to that list, I am certain that I am now qualified enough to write my own weekly advice column in a women’s magazine, should the theatre reviewing ever dry up!

‘Menopause: The Musical’, by Jeanie Linders, is a hilarious celebration of women who are on the brink of, in the middle of or have survived ‘the change.’ Since it first opened in a tiny 76-seat theatre in Florida in March 2001, it has been seen by nearly ten million theatre-goers in over 150 cities and 12 countries.
Four women with, seemingly, nothing in common become involved in a dispute over a bargain-priced black lace bra during a sale in the lingerie department of a well-known London department store.

As the quartet, a frumpy housewife from Skegness, a shrewd business woman, a vegan Earth mother and a prime-time soap star, discover more about each other they
learn that they have much more in common than they first thought: bladder weakness, mood swings, memory loss, hot flushes, night sweats, too much sex, too little sex and a craving for junk food and chocolate!

Cheryl Baker leads the cast of four and, as you might expect from a member of a Eurovision-winning pop group (Bucks Fizz, as though you’d need reminding!), she has a terrific singing voice. Her comedy timing is great, too, and she gives a wonderful performance as the meditating, ageing hippy. bSue Hodge (who many will remember with great fondness from her days as Mimi in the hit sit-com, ’Allo ’Allo) plays the down-trodden, dumpy, bespectacled housewife from Skegness and she gets many of the best comedy moments. The merest mannerism or facial expression was often enough to send the largely-female audience into hysterics.

Susie Fenwick and Ellen O’Grady complete the cast as the soap star and business woman, respectively. Although, not as instantly recognisable to many members of the audience as Baker and Hodge, Fenwick and O’Grady have impeccable pedigrees as West End musical performers and this was evident in their performances.

The show includes fun parodies of 23 songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s, including ‘It’s In His Kiss’, ‘My Guy’, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, ‘I Got You Babe’ and ‘I Will Survive.’ The lyrics are cleverly re-worked to suit the piece and are delivered with gusto by the cast. As the programme notes explain: ‘Menopause: The Musical is about women . . . not about theatre.’ No doubt this will attract a certain amount of theatrical snobbishness from some critics, but not this one.

The show, which is funny, entertaining and uplifting, culminates with a high-spirited invitation for audience members to join the cast on stage for a feel-good finale.

‘Menopause: The Musical’ runs at The Tyne Theatre & Opera House from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th June 2009. It then goes on to tour at Portsmouth, Horsham, Lincoln and Malvern.
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